New Ipswich residents can now pay their tax bills online
New Ipswich Select Board Chair George Lawrence and Selectman Ben Cargill discuss the merits of allowing residents to pay their taxes online with a credit card during a Select Board meeting Tuesday. (Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
NEW IPSWICH — New Ipswich residents who would like to pay taxes with a credit card this year are welcome to do so, after the Select Board decided Tuesday to enroll in a system that will allow online payment of tax bills.
It’s a move Town Clerk and Tax Collector Cindy Lussier has backed for months. She met with the Select Board Nov. 27 to ask them to consider adopting a system that would allow residents to pay their tax bills online through either electronic check or credit card, and the town entered an agreement on Tuesday to use an online tax collection system by Avitar Associates of Chichester. The system would cost $155 per year to maintain.
“This is a service the residents are saying they want,” Lussier told the board Tuesday.
Selectmen requested on Nov. 20 Lussier collect signatures of residents who would like to see the town accept credit cards, and by Tuesday, she had collected 128.
Not all town officials are sanguine about the move, however; Treasurer Beverly Vaillancourt expressed several concerns about the complications that could come with accepting credit card payments for the first time.
In a letter presented to the board Tuesday, she wrote, “We are against this becoming policy. It would mean more work for the Treasurer’s Office in keeping track of additional, but separate transactions.”
The town would have to create a separate bank account to keep track of credit card transactions, she said.
Vaillancourt also had questions about how the town would balance accounts, considering money received from credit card payments would be delayed by about two days.
According to the town’s agreement with Avitar, the payments would be electronically deposited only once the account had been processed.
Another issue, said Vaillancourt, is that the service will introduce new fees. Credit payments will require a 2.95 percent handling fee, which will be paid to the host site and not the town. For a resident with a tax bill of $2,123, that will require an additional $62.63 worth of fees.
“This is a smaller tax amount. Some tax bills are double and even triple that amount. We feel the service charge is high,” wrote Vaillancourt in her letter to the board.
Lussier pointed out the fee is stated up front and calculated for residents before they confirm their bill, and paying online with a credit card is not required. If a resident wishes to incur the fees in exchange for the convenience, that is their choice, she said.
Lussier said she would also like to see residents be able to use their credit card at the town offices for fees such as motor vehicle registrations, which is a service Avitar could provide through a separate contract.
Selectman Michael Conlin, however, made a motion to begin accepting credit cards for tax payments — and only for that service — and to address extending the service to other areas after assessing the success of the program next November. The board unanimously agreed.
“I do think we need to move forward in providing services for the town,” said Selectman Ben Cargill. “I’d like to, in a year, adopt the whole thing and have it all work out, but for now, this is a first step.”
Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or firstname.lastname@example.org. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.